Every good parent wants to make sure their children knows how much they're loved. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out exactly how to do that in a way that speaks to them though. That's where understanding your child's love language comes in. Just like adults, children have their own unique way of feeling loved and appreciated. And by identifying and catering to their specific love language, out of the many love languages types, we can help them feel more secure, validated, and connected in their relationships.
In this article, we will be exploring the concept of love language theory and how it applies to children. We will be discussing the five love languages for children, as outlined by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell.
Whether you're a new parent or have been parenting for years, understanding your child's love language can be a helpful starting point in how you communicate and connect with them. So let's get started!
The Five Love Languages For Children
In his book "The 5 Love Languages of Children," Gary Chapman, along with co-author Ross Campbell, identifies five primary ways that children give and receive love.
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
It's important to note that every child is unique, and their love language may not fit neatly into one category. Some children may have a primary love language, while others may have a combination of two or more. As a parent, it's important to observe your child's behavior and reactions to determine their love language(s).
Let's take a closer look at each of the five love languages for children:
Words of Affirmation
This love language involves expressing love through verbal affirmations and praise. Children who have this as their primary language thrive on positive feedback and hearing things like "I'm proud of you" or "You're doing a great job."
Is your child's love language Words of Affirmation:
Your child craves verbal praise and recognition: Your child often seeks out verbal affirmation and positive feedback, and may feel more loved and appreciated when receiving verbal praise for their accomplishments or efforts.
Your child is sensitive to criticism: Children who are more sensitive to criticism or negative feedback may be more likely to internalize criticism and feel discouraged if they don't receive enough positive reinforcement. They may benefit from receiving more positive feedback and encouragement to help them feel appreciated and valued.
Your child enjoys giving and receiving compliments: The child may be more likely to express their appreciation and admiration for others, and they may feel more loved and appreciated when they receive compliments in return.
Your child enjoys quality conversations: If your child enjoys spending quality time and talking with other, they may feel more connected when they engage in meaningful conversations with their parents or caregivers.
Tips and Strategies for Parents
Give verbal praise and encouragement
Use phrases such as "You're doing amazing!", "I knew you could do it!", "I appreciate all the effort you're putting in." and "Your dedication is really paying off."
Write notes or letters
Some parents leave notes in school lunches or folders, others choose to leave them around the house where they know their child will find them.
Have meaningful conversations
Ask your children about their thoughts and feelings, and really listen to their responses. This can help your child feel heard and understood, and it can also help strengthen your bond with them.
Avoid harsh criticism
Be mindful of the way you offer feedback or criticism to your child. Children who have Words of Affirmation as their primary love language may be more sensitive to negative feedback, so it's important to offer criticism in a constructive and compassionate way.
Quality time refers to giving your child undivided attention and being fully present with them. This love language is all about creating meaningful experiences and memories together, such as playing games, going on walks, or having conversations that are important to them.
Is your child's love language Quality Time?
Your child craves undivided attention: Time spent multi-tasking won't have the same benefit for them and will leave them feeling like their needs are unmet, so really try hard to put away your cell phone, chores, work, etc. and give them your undivided attention even in short increments.
Your child enjoys shared activities: Children may enjoy participating in activities with their parents or caregivers, such as going to the zoo, coloring, or making crafts together. Engaging in these activities can help strengthen the bond between the child and their caregiver and make the child feel loved and valued.
Tips and Strategies for Parents
Spend one-on-one time with your child
Make an effort to spend one-on-one time with your child regularly. Some parents choose to do a walk after supper with their child, spend some time before bed discussing the days events, or rotate evening activities to give each child some one-on-one time in a home with multiple children.
Engage in activities your child enjoys
Consider participating in activities with your child that they enjoy. This will vary greatly and depends on your child's interests, but could look like building legos together, coloring, or even watching an episode of their favorite YouTube channel with them while showing interest and enthusiasm that supports it.
Try to minimize distractions during quality time spent with your child. We understand how hard it can be to put down the phone or even just stop multi-tasking with all the work that needs to be done in a day, but your child can tell if you're paying attention or not, so put in the extra effort.
Make time for family rituals
Consider establishing family rituals that involve spending quality time together, such as family game night or a weekly family outing.
While gifts may seem like a materialistic way to express love, for some children, receiving a thoughtful gift can be a powerful expression of love and care. This love language is about the thought and effort put into the gift, rather than the gift itself.
Is your child's love language Receiving Gifts?
Your child loves receiving gifts: They often ask for specific items as gifts, and take great joy in receiving and displaying them.
Your child craves gifts: They may express disappointment or feel unloved if they do not receive a gift on special occasions.
Your child prizes the gifts: They may take special care of their possessions, seeing them as physical representations of the love and care they have received.
Once again, it's important to distinguish that giving gifts is not about materialism, but about showing love and appreciation in a way that resonates with your child.
Tips and Strategies for Parents
Pay attention to your child's interests and preferences, and choose gifts that are meaningful to them. For example, if your child loves art, you could give them a new set of markers or paints.
Make It Special
Make gift-giving a special event by wrapping the gift in a creative and thoughtful way or presenting it with a unique flourish they will appreciate.
Teach them gratitude
Encourage your child to express gratitude and appreciation for the gifts they receive, helping them to understand the value of giving and receiving.
By understanding and speaking your child's love language of Receiving Gifts, you can strengthen your connection and show them just how much they are loved and valued.
Acts of Service
Acts of Service is a love language that involves showing love through actions and gestures that help others. This can include things like making their favorite meal, helping with homework, or doing household chores together.
Is your child's love language Acts of Service?
Your child loves helping others: They may offer to do small tasks such as tidying up their room, helping with household chores, or offering to help a sibling with something.
Your child values helpfulness: These children may value helpfulness more than other children. They may appreciate when others help them and may even feel compelled to reciprocate.
Your child is independent: Your child may not always express their appreciation verbally, but they appreciate when others show kindness and support. They may be independent and not ask for help, but they still feel loved when someone offers to assist them.
Tips and Strategies for Parents
Help with tasks
Parents can offer to help their child with tasks, such as homework, a school project, or chores.
Small acts of kindness, such like making their bed or preparing a special breakfast for them, can go a long way in you expression of love.
Encouraging children to help others can help them feel loved and valued. Parents can involve their child in tasks and let them take the lead.
This love language involves displaying love through physical touch, such as hugs, kisses, and cuddles. For children with this love language, physical touch is a powerful way to feel loved and connected. To these children, actions speak louder than words of affirmation.
Is your child's love language Physical Touch?
Your child hugs, snuggles and loves holding hands: Seeking hugs or snuggles from parents or caregivers is a natural and healthy behavior for children. It helps them feel safe, loved, and secure, and can promote healthy attachment and emotional development. For some kids though, it's even more important than other displays of affection.
Does your child enjoy physical closeness: Enjoying physical closeness and sitting close to others is a common human need for social interaction and can promote feelings of warmth, safety, and connection. Children who value this will always be glued to the side of a loved one and prefer the connection over time spent alone.
Being comforted by a gentle touch when feeling upset or anxious: It's an effective way to regulate their emotions, reduce stress, and promote a sense of safety and security, which is particularly important for their emotional well-being and development
Tips and Strategies for Parents
Show affection regularly
Make it a habit to give your child hugs, kisses, or high-fives as a way of showing your love and affection. Holding hands when taking a stroll or letting them sit on your lap when reading a bed time story are easy ways to help use this love language.
Engage in physical activities together
Engage in physical activities that your child enjoys, such as playing catch or going on a bike ride. Tickling is another example that depends solely on whether or not your child actually enjoys it. If their love language is physical touch and they don't enjoy being tickled, that activity would be extra important to avoid as you never want to use their primary love language in a way that feels like punishment to them.
Provide comfort through touch
When your child is feeling upset or anxious, offer comfort through a gentle touch, like a hug or a gentle backrub. Holding on to the hug gently for even a few extra seconds can make a big difference to someone with this primary love language.
Respect your child's boundaries
While physical touch can be important for children who thrive on it, it's also essential to respect your child's boundaries. Always ask for permission before giving physical affection and respect their decision if they decline.
Understanding your child's love language can be a powerful tool for building a strong and loving relationship with them. By recognizing the different ways in which children express and receive love, parents can tailor their interactions and create a more meaningful connection with their child. In this article, we have briefly covered the five love languages and provided examples of behaviors that may indicate which language your child responds to the most. We have also provided tips for parents to express love in each language.
It's important to remember that every child is unique and may have a primary love language that differs from their siblings or peers. So it's important for parents to take the time to observe and understand their child's individual needs and preferences.
We encourage parents to continue exploring their child's love language and to experiment with different ways to express love in their child's preferred language. By doing so, parents can create a more positive and loving environment for their child to grow and thrive in. Remember, the effort put into understanding and speaking your child's love language is a worthwhile investment in your relationship with them.